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Review Round-Ups

Denise Gough shines in People, Places and Things

Jeremy Herrin's production of Duncan Macmillan's new play opened in the National's Dorfman Theatre last night

Barbara Marten as Doctor and Denise Gough as Emma
© Johan Persson

Matt Trueman, WhatsOnStage


"Given its swish clientele, I'd always pictured sun loungers and smoothies, but rehab is not simply a retreat. As Duncan Macmillan's new play shows, it's a struggle."

"Gough is frankly extraordinary - and not just physically, embodying the wear and tear of abuse and the agony of detox. She's volatile, veering from fury to vulnerability, but this becomes a startlingly naked, near-the-knuckle performance: no make-up, real insecurities laid bare, emotions right at the surface."

"Insightful though this is, Macmillan's play can feel like a PHSE lesson."

Michael Billington, The Guardian


"What gives his new play exceptional vibrancy, though, is its decision to draw parallels between rehab and theatrical process, and to present the action from the addict's point of view. It helps that his protagonist is an actor, superlatively played by Denise Gough."

"Macmillan also offers a critique of a society in which addiction is partly a response to the surrounding chaos, and where the generic uplift of marketing-speak pervades everything from politics to religion."

"It is an astonishing performance much aided by Jeremy Herrin's vivid Headlong production, in which the stage at one point teems with multiple Emmas, by Bunny Christie's white-tiled design; and by sterling support from Barbara Marten as a group therapist and Emma's mum, and from Nathaniel Martello-White as a deeply sympathetic fellow patient."

Henry Hitchings, The Evening Standard


"Besides being a portrait of addiction and recovery, it's perceptive about trauma and its consequences, as well as the roles so many of us adopt in order to deflect the truth."

"Jeremy Herrin unleashes a barrage of light and sound to convey Emma's delusions - first her drug-addled frenzy, and later the seizures and hallucinations caused by withdrawal. But there are also moments of finely controlled stillness in this absorbing production."

"this is above all a triumph for Denise Gough, who delivers an emotionally shattering performance that's also exemplary in its rigour."

Dominic Maxwell, The Times


"Duncan Macmillan's luminously unglamorous story of drink and drug addiction has an actress for a protagonist, but there is nothing actressy about the career-making performance that Denise Gough gives here."

"Macmillan got humour and heartache from clinical depression in his monologue Every Brilliant Thing. He once again mixes dark wit, intellectual ambition and emotional intelligence."

"it's Gough's evening: unselfish, unsentimental, she carries you with her every awkward inch of the way."

Dominic Cavendish, Daily Telegraph


"Macmillan – in tandem with director Jeremy Herrin, of co-producers Headlong – strives hard to give a theatrically heady sense of what it might feel like to be stuffed to the gunnels with narcotics – and then come off them."

"Rather like the protagonist, though, the play runs out of places to go, even if it attempts to open out the debate by inviting us to consider the role art itself plays in transcending (as well as explaining) the world we live in."

"What keeps you hooked are two class-A performances."

People, Place and Things runs at the Dorfman until 10 October 2015. For more information or to book tickets, click here.